MIAMI (USA TODAY) — How do you top your own recently wrapped, well-received megatour when you're the reigning king and queen of hip-hop and pop, respectively? You join forces for a tour of supernova proportions, demonstrating why no one in the game comes close to that throne.
The event: Jay Z and Beyoncé kicked off their On the Run dates Wednesday night in Miami with tantalizing spectacle, triumphant vocals, palpable sensuality and booty-shaking anthems.
The venue: Sun Life Stadium
Raindrops falling on my head: Soggy weather couldn't dampen fans' spirits as they waited in line for hours ahead of the doors opening. Maseo Pleasant, 17, of Seattle, and his best friend, Taylor Hayes, 18, both sported colorful ponchos as they braved the persistent drizzle. Waxing ecstatic about Beyoncé, Hayes said, "This is my first concert! Who better than the queen?" Hayes and Pleasant met up in Little Rock, where they're both from. They then beelined for Miami just for the show. "If they play Partition and Crazy in Love, I'm going to cry," Pleasant half-joked.
Like mother, like daughter: Clad in matching black rompers, Adrianna Lopez, 16, and Milanni Garcia, 14, hardly stood out in the fashion-forward crowd. Their excitement was unique, though, in a will-call line. Lopez could hardly contain her enthusiasm for Queen Bey. "I saw her last year and was like, 'Bucket item number one? Check.' " Lopez credits her mom, Vanessa, as the real fan, though. Showing off an Instagram photo of the mother-daughter team at last year's Mrs. Carter World tour, Vanessa, sporting an understated, black Beyoncé T-shirt, called it "a very proud moment."
Going the distance: There are fans, and then there are FANS. Gaby Ortiz qualifies as the latter. The 27-year-old arrived in Miami from Argentina on Monday — just for the show. Donning her pal Adrian Ferguson's oversized Sean John jacket, she said she came for both artists. "I am really excited to see how they collaborate." Longtime friend Ferguson, 28, is a big Jay Z fan, having seen the rapper several times already. "(My love for Jay Z) came after Hard Knock Life, Volume 2," he says. As for Beyoncé, he's also an admirer, and even refused to listen to her latest for the sake of hearing it in its purest form: "I want to hear it live first."
Black and white: The tour boasted a stark and classy black-and-white color scheme. Tour shirts stuck to the theme, stating "On the Run" in various witty ways: old English letters, coded abbreviations. There were a couple of fun Beyoncé-centric detours, too. A black baseball cap blared in all-white caps, "BOW DOWN," a reference toBeyonce's aggressive feminist tune Flawless. A $75 gray sweater quoted Partition's "cake by the pound" lyric, a reference to both cake and booties.
Oh, Florida: The unpredictable Florida weather cleared by 8 p.m. Still, eager fans were greeted with soaked seats and aisles. The looming threat of downpour wasn't any more welcoming.
It's showtime! By 9:30, fans are getting antsy. The stadium has filled enough that the delay is increasingly unfounded. Luckily, a beautiful black-and-white video breaks the silence, sirens ring, and Beyoncé whispers "I need some gangster s---" before seguing into '03 Bonnie and Clyde, the couple's collaboration that samples Tupac classic Me and My Girlfriend. She's clad in a fishnet mask; he's in black sunglasses, a star-speckled shirt, black jacket and thick signature gold chains.
Show me what you got: Among purple lights, smoke and strobes, the funky horns and infectious downbeat of smash hit Crazy In Love reverberates through the audience. Whatever void or annoyance was apparent at their absence is instantly forgotten as Jay Z flows "show me what you got."
Hands up: Beyoncé exits and Jay Z rolls through a string of fan favorites, including N----- in Paris and Tom Ford. Beyoncé enters again for her place as the sexy background vocalist on Tom Ford. Then, in the blink of an eye, amid a sea of red, a costume change signals it's Bey's show again as she sings, "Who runs the world? Girls." The words of feminist speaker Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie blaze across the screen.
Go, girl: For all the debate about Beyoncé's feminist cred, this show doesn't mince words. Beyoncé unquestionably identifies. Strutting across the stage in a leopard-patterned, long-sleeve leotard, she knows she's flawless and sings so.
Top of their game: Early on, it becomes apparent that this is a totally integrated performance. Sure, it gives Beyoncé time for her phenomenal costume changes, but the coordination is not just remarkable, it's the absolute best way that two of the world's best performers can deliver a show that proves why they're on top together.
Switch up: Vintage videos mix with onscreen party scenes featuring the likes of Diddy, as Jay Z (sporting a fedora) lets the audience rhyme half of Big Pimpin' a cappella. Exit Jay, enter Bey, seated in a glass chair and wearing a full-length sequined bodysuit. Tension builds with chopped beats, only to make way for a grandiose entrance for Jay Z on fan favorite On to the Next One.
On fire: Jay Z segues into Clique as Beyoncé creeps up in hooded leather. A montage of war images, static and beehives precedes a blazing performance of U Don't Know by Jay Z — really, a row of fireballs explodes behind him.
Can't touch this: This show is worth it just for Beyoncé's ensembles. She reappears in a black lace, drop-sleeve number, a la Stevie Nicks, for Haunted, a highlight performance, boasting creamy vocals that contrast with other awesome numbers like the more agro Flawless and triumphant Crazy In Love. Her vocal range is as vast as her fashion choices.
In love with Beyoncé: A very happy chair shares a sensual display for the expected, though no less titillating, Drunk In Love. She's still wearing the black lace. As Jay Z says in the following Public Service Announcement: "Got the hottest chick in the game wearin' my chain."
Taking over: Beyoncé takes over vocal duties for Justin Timberlake on Holy Grail, one of the stronger tunes on the rapper's Magna Carta Holy Grail album. The song is a standout with a sticky trap beat and transitions to a slow body-grooving hook.
No problem: A video with Part II (On the Run) allusions (a bloody Beyoncé in a lineup, cars peeling out, glass shattering) transitions into 99 Problems and then a thumping remix of Beyonce's If I Were a Boy. The magic continues as Beyoncé briefly covers Lauryn Hill's Ex-Factor. Not a surprise, as she's done it before, but still it's no easy feat — she kills it tonally and emotionally.
Here comes the bride: Beyoncé moves to an island stage in the middle of the stadium floor, dressed head to toe in white, including a floor-length bridal veil. She sits while belting out the soulful Resentment. But such seriousness can't last long, and the mini-stage show promptly turns to the upbeat and infectious Love on Top. Beyoncé's star energy hasn't dimmed in two solid hours of non-stop dancing and soaring vocals, the kind that make you wonder how human lungs take that kind of pressure.
Take it home: Against black-and-white shots of his native Brooklyn, Jay Z kicks off Hard Knock Life to an audience ravenous for more of the rapper. Beyoncé follows by repping her home state in a leather-studded jacket emblazoned TEXAS across the back, worn for the empowering Pretty Hurts.
All together now: The couple move to the mini-stage for Part II of On the Run and then Forever Young. This is the finale, as their late start precluded any encore. The dark stadium twinkles with cellphones and lighters. If this wasn't sweet enough, home videos of daughter Blue Ivy grace the screen. An image of "The Carters" written in the sand comes up, and for a moment, the crowd and the Carters seem to be one big happy family.